on the drive back home i ask if the moon is following us an eyelash on my cheek my mother tells me to make a wish the moon isn’t following us we’re circling around it at five i drank tea from a saucer so i don’t stay up at night my palms orange henna an empty quarter all heat and sunlight my grandmother makes a phone call the line is breaking i ask for more tea palms spread open malleable bones of milk and ground cardamom
a beehive sits on the lamppost at their house my mother tells me not to wear perfume so they don’t sting she brushes my hair coconut oil drowning in my scalp every time she adds it sucks it away she is still trying to understand my hands fresh of henna i could not smell the sweetness yet every time it bounces out stubborn and coily like the moon my mother tells me regardless
the landline still breaks when my grandfather asks if i want to harvest his pomegranates i think the phone is broken i say in fragments later he lifts me to pull a yellowed one but inside all blood and ruby for a second i could not tell if i had transcended to the sky or if his arms are too long mashallah he tells me you picked one true to your name generous and plentiful its pearls stuck between the gaps of my teeth implanted like fake ones but i thought the more the merrier
my heart is a compass so i saw right above the border my grandfather always said khashooga not gafsha not mil3aga so then i had to look farther up my tongue is fluid a mixture of sounds from where my ancestors had slept my grandmother lifts me to her lap belly rolls like unbaked dough sit right under my chest she voices fairouz o, um sulayman where has your husband been? he is by the field plucking peach and pomegranate the phone rings the line still breaks i ask if the moon is following us the moon follows you it circles around you
Notes: telefon kharban (broken telephone) is a playground game renowned in the Gulf Region of the Middle East. Children would sit in a circle, whisper a phrase to the person to their right, and it would move around until it reaches the first person again. The phrase will almost always be distorted at the end.
- like the moon / my mother tells me regardless: the term مثل القمر or زي القمر translates to “like the moon”. In Arabic, it means the addressee looks as beautiful as the moon. The moon has always been a centering theme in Arab culture, especially due to the use of our lunar calendar.
- khashooga: spoon in the Iraqi dialect. Because I am based in Saudi Arabia, “my heart is a compass / so i saw right above the border” meant Kuwait–where my mother had resided. My father, however, was in Iraq, which is why I said, “so then i had to look farther up,” considering my geographic location. Iraq stood above Kuwait from my location.
- gafsha: spoon in the Kuwaiti dialect.
- mil3aga: spoon in the Saudi dialect. The “3” or “ع” is a voiced pharyngeal fricative sound.
Jood AlThukair is a writer and editor-in-chief of Sumou, an online magazine for creative youth. Based in Saudi Arabia, she oscillates between writing and making art all while plucking pomegranates, juggling academia, and fighting for decolonization. Find her on Instagram: @jusqu.a or Twitter: @joodthu.